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Full text of "The History Of Western Education"

CHAPTER   III

EDUCATION IN THE ROMAN EMPIRE

i. THE SCHOOLS OF THE EMPIRE

IN the establishment and maintenance of the dominion of Rome
over the nations that came under her sway education played a
most important part. Following the example of Alexander the
Great, the Romans from the last days of the Republic made it
their deliberate policy to introduce their institutions and culture
among their subject peoples. Everywhere towns on the model
of the imperial city sprang up in the tracks of their conquering
armies as centres of administration and control, and in all the
larger and many of the smaller of these towns, schools of grammar
and rhetoric were set up for the children of the country. In Gaul,
for example, the schools of the Druids which Caesar found
attended by large numbers of young people, pursuing their
studies in some cases to the age of twenty, were speedily displaced
by the Roman schools which were flourishing early in the First
Century in Autun, Lyons, Toulouse, Nimes, Vienne, Narbonne,
Marseilles and other towns. In Britain, again, as we learn from
Tacitus, it was one of the first cares of Agricola after getting the
country pacified to make provision for the instruction of the sons
of the native chiefs in the art of rhetoric, and many of them who
had hitherto held aloof were won over to the side of Rome by the
attractions of the new learning. In all parts of the Empire the
same process of Romanizing through the schools went steadily
on, and by the Second Century the Roman schools were practically
universal. Even when the intellectual decline which manifested
itself in the progressive deterioration of literature and scholarship
came, it scarcely affected their spread. So late as the end of the
Fourth Century, when the menace of the northern barbarians
was growing ever more serious, the schools of the rhetoricians,
Augustine tells us, were " alive with the din of crowds of students
throughout the whole world " ; and so they continued till they
were swept away with the Empire itself by repeated waves of
barbarian invasion.

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